Same as it ever was
Much of the contemporary turmoil in the Middle East owes its origins to foreign powers drawing lines in the sand that were both arbitrary and consequential and guided more by their imperial standing than the interests of the region. The “red line” that president Barack Obama has set out as the trigger for US military intervention in Syria is no different.
He drew it unilaterally in August 2012 in response to a question about “whether [he envisioned] using US military” in Syria. “A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilised. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”
On 21 August there was a chemical weapons attack outside Damascus believed to have been carried out by the Syrian government. That changed both Obama’s calculus and his memory. “I didn’t set a red line,” he claimed last week. I didn’t draw it, he insisted, everybody did. “The world set a red line”.
This was news to the world, which, over the weekend, sought to distance itself from his line, as the US president doubled-down on his double-speak…
The alleged urgency to bomb Syria at this moment is being driven almost entirely by the White House’s desire to assert both American power and moral authority as defined by a self-imposed ultimatum. It is to this beat that the drums of war are pounding. But thus far few are marching. The American public is against it by wide margins. As a result it is not clear that Congress, whose approval he has sought, will back him. The justification and the objectives for bombing keep changing and are unconvincing. He has written a rhetorical cheque his polity may not cash and the public is reluctant to honour. On Tuesday night he’ll make his case to a sceptical nation from the White House…
…The insistence that a durable and effective solution to this crisis lies at the end of an American cruise missile beggars belief. It is borne from the circular sophistry that has guided most recent “humanitarian interventions”: (1) Something must be done now; (2) Bombing is something; (3) Therefore we must bomb…
The problem for America in all of this is that its capacity to impact diplomatic negotiations is limited by the fact that its record of asserting its military power stands squarely at odds with its pretensions of moral authority. For all America’s condemnations of chemical weapons, the people of Falluja in Iraq are experiencing the birth defects and deformities in children and increases in early-life cancer that may be linked to the use of depleted uranium during the US bombardment of the town. It also used white phosphorus against combatants in Falluja.
Its chief ally in the region, Israel, holds the record for ignoring UN resolutions, and the US is not a participant in the international criminal court – which is charged with bringing perpetrators of war crimes to justice – because it refuses to allow its own citizens to be charged. On the very day Obama lectured the world on international norms he launched a drone strike in Yemen that killed six people.
Obama appealing for the Syrian regime to be brought to heel under international law is a bit like Tony Soprano asking the courts for a restraining order against one of his mob rivals – it cannot be taken seriously because the very laws he is invoking are laws he openly flouts.
Since the end of World War 2 – and the way we ended it – the United States has ignored international law, treaties and the worldwide expansion of a struggle for human rights that happened in parallel with anti-colonialism. Our nation supported any and all colonial powers that weren’t smart enough to withdraw gracefully. We volunteered the lives of our military personnel in a foolhardy quest to shut down efforts to shrug off the imperial yoke of Western corporate power – all the way to VietNam.
We lost every one of those battles more often sooner than later; but, we lost them all. Obama believes like all self-deluded American politicians he still can find some means of reintroducing that control. Most recently by technological means – as ignorant as ever of the fact that knowing which people would prefer to get your foot off their neck doesn’t mean they will stop threatening to break that foot if you don’t remove it. Declaring the rest of the world to be led by religious terrorists – from atop a pyramid of dollars worshipped by our own religious terrorists – changes nothing. And never reinstates credibility lost over decades.
A Dutch court has blocked the extradition of a terrorism suspect to the United States amid concern about American collusion in his torture.
The 26-year-old man, known only as Sabir K, is accused of taking part in attacks on US forces in Afghanistan.
He says he was tortured in Pakistan after his arrest there in 2010, and that the Americans knew about it…
The suspect, who is a Dutch citizen of Pakistani origin, was returned to the Netherlands after his arrest and immediately taken into custody.
The appeals court in The Hague said he could not be extradited to the US “because too much is unclear regarding the role of the American authorities in Sabir’s torture“…
The BBC’s Hague Correspondent Anna Holligan says the judgement is significant as it appears to acknowledge that the US may have been aware of torture techniques used against suspects overseas – something Washington has always refused to comment on.
Chickens coming home to roost.
No doubt our government will follow standard operating procedure [Imperial version, latest edition] and bluster, try to bully the Netherlands government into making illegal procedures legal. After all, it works well here at home.
The United Nations says more than 1,000 people were killed in Iraq in May, the highest monthly death toll for years.
The violence makes it the deadliest month since the wide sectarian violence of 2006-7, and raising concern that the country is returning to civil war.
The vast majority of the casualties were civilians, and Baghdad was the worst hit area of the country…
Figures released on Saturday showed 1,045 civilians and security personnel were killed in May, far higher than the 712 who died in April, the worst recorded toll since June 2008…
Analysts say al-Qaeda and Sunni Islamist insurgents have been invigorated by the Sunni-led revolt in neighbouring Syria and by the worsening sectarian tensions in the country…
On some days, Shia areas across Baghdad appear to have been the main target, while on others, the Sunni areas outside the capital saw most explosions.
One explanation is that Sunni militant groups linked to al-Qaeda want to provoke civil war in Baghdad and undermine the government in areas they see as their strongholds, our correspondent says.
But other explanations link the violence to the civil war in neighbouring Syria, he adds.
The bloodshed has been accompanied by unconfirmed rumours about sectarian militias roaming Baghdad for revenge, which have caused fear in many areas of the capital.
It’s not only inside Iraq that folks lay the responsibility for continued violence on Bush’s War. As violent and corrupt as was Saddam Hussein, the invasion demonstrated sovereignty means nothing in a world facing United States military power.
The people of Iran will never forget the democratic government overthrown by the United States. Good, bad or indifferent, Iraqis will never forget the hundreds of thousands of civilians killed and maimed in the name of liberation by the United States. Afghanistan, Pakistan, even Saudi Arabia watch the way we ignore accepted global law – and take whatever we want, however we wish. No one forgets.
“I don’t care if Bush said he’d let you plant this to poppies…Michelle won’t allow it.”
The C.I.A.’s station chief here met with President Hamid Karzai on Saturday, and the Afghan leader said he had been assured that the agency would continue dropping off stacks of cash at his office despite a storm of criticism that has erupted since the payments were disclosed.
The C.I.A. money, Mr. Karzai told reporters, was “an easy source of petty cash,” and some of it was used to pay off members of the political elite, a group dominated by warlords.
The use of the C.I.A. cash for payoffs has prompted criticism from many Afghans and some American and European officials, who complain that the agency, in its quest to maintain access and influence at the presidential palace, financed what is essentially a presidential slush fund. The practice, the officials say, effectively undercut a pillar of the American war strategy: the building of a clean and credible Afghan government to wean popular support from the Taliban.
Instead, corruption at the highest levels seems to have only worsened. The International Monetary Fund recently warned diplomats in Kabul that the Afghan government faced a potentially severe budget shortfall partly because of the increasing theft of customs duties and officially abetted tax evasion…
…Mr. Karzai, in offering his most detailed accounting to date of how the money had been used, probably raised as many questions as he answered…Formal aid, for instance, is publicly accounted for and audited. The C.I.A.’s cash is not, though Mr. Karzai did say the Americans were given receipts for the money they dropped off at the presidential palace.
Asked why money that was used for what would appear to be justifiable governing and charitable expenses was handed over secretly by the C.I.A. and not routed publicly through the State Department, Mr. Karzai replied: “This is cash. It is the choice of the U.S. government.”
He added, “If tomorrow the State Department decides to give us such cash, I’d welcome that, too.”
Mr. Karzai declined to specify how much cash his office received each month, or how much it had been given by the C.I.A. so far. At his meeting with the station chief, it was made clear to him that “we are not allowed to disclose” the amount, he said…
The American Embassy in Kabul, which handles queries for the C.I.A., declined to comment.
Heartwarming to note that American foreign policy hasn’t especially changed since the days of John Foster Dulles and Dean Rusk. Corruption is closer akin to the White House and Congress than anything offered by sovereign democracy.
This is how we shipped cash to Iraq for Bremer
In Afghanistan, Tonya Long, a 13-year Army veteran, approved military cash payments to Afghan drivers of “jingle trucks,” the colorful transport trucks that carry supplies to U.S. bases.
Last week, Staff Sgt. Long stood in the dock in a federal courtroom here and read aloud from a statement she had written on notebook paper:
“I cannot express how sorry I am … I chose to betray my country and my family.” She did not ask for mercy, she told a judge, “because I don’t deserve it.”
Long, 30, had pleaded guilty to stealing at least $1 million and shipping the cash in hundred-dollar bills to the U.S. in the guts of hollowed-out VCR players.
Long’s scam is part of a pattern of fraud and theft among U.S. soldiers responsible for paying Afghans who support U.S. forces. Last year, 18 U.S. soldiers were charged with such thefts, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction. Nine U.S. contractors also were charged…
At least two other U.S. Army officers are under investigation in Long’s scam, and federal prosecutors say more indictments are likely. As part of a plea deal, Long agreed to testify against others allegedly involved.
At Long’s hearing March 4, U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle called the case “a critically symbolic prosecution,” and speculated that Long and her suspected allies might have actually stolen $10 million or more. The judge suggested that such thefts have been going on since the U.S. mission in Afghanistan began more than a decade ago.
The judge said…Long’s theft undermined America’s mission in a country where the Afghan government is routinely accused of rampant corruption and bribery…
“There were tens of thousands of other soldiers … under 24-hour-a-day threat of death,” the judge told Long. “Where is your sympathy for them while you were stealing? What a betrayal!”
Under Long’s plea agreement, Boyle could not sentence her to more than five years in prison. He told her he was imposing the full five years, plus three years of supervised release — and ordered restitution of $1 million.
Someone mail me a penny postcard when Dick Cheney, George W Bush and flunkies like Paul Bremer and Ahmad Chalabi are indicted for corruption – sending our nation’s military off to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, “losing” money by the pallet-load.
There’s no denying Sergeant Long is a crook. But, her crime compares to those of Bremer, Chalabi and Company like someone robbing parking meters compared to car theft rings shipping boatloads of hot cars to Mexico. And she didn’t kill any civilians in the process.
Lahore, Pakistan — Ten million dollars does not seem to buy much in this bustling Pakistani city. That is the sum the United States is offering for help in convicting Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, perhaps the country’s best-known jihadi leader. Yet Mr. Saeed lives an open, and apparently fearless, life in a middle-class neighborhood here.
“I move about like an ordinary person — that’s my style,” said Mr. Saeed, a burly 64-year-old, reclining on a bolster as he ate a chicken supper. “My fate is in the hands of God, not America.”
Mr. Saeed is the founder, and is still widely believed to be the true leader, of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group that carried out the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, in which more than 160 people, including six Americans, were killed. The United Nations has placed him on a terrorist list and imposed sanctions on his group. But few believe he will face trial any time soon in a country that maintains a perilous ambiguity toward jihadi militancy, casting a benign eye on some groups, even as it battles others that attack the state.
Mr. Saeed’s very public life seems more than just an act of mocking defiance against the Obama administration and its bounty, analysts say. As American troops prepare to leave Afghanistan next door, Lashkar is at a crossroads, and its fighters’ next move — whether to focus on fighting the West, disarm and enter the political process, or return to battle in Kashmir — will depend largely on Mr. Saeed…
His security seemingly ensured, Mr. Saeed has over the past year addressed large public meetings and appeared on prime-time television, and is now even giving interviews to Western news media outlets he had previously eschewed…
Still, he says he has nothing against Americans, and warmly described a visit he made to the United States in 1994, during which he spoke at Islamic centers in Houston, Chicago and Boston. “At that time, I liked it,” he said with a wry smile.
During that stretch, his group was focused on attacking Indian soldiers in the disputed territory of Kashmir — the fight that led the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate to help establish Lashkar-e-Taiba in 1989…
“When there are no Americans in Afghanistan, what will happen?” said Mushtaq Sukhera, a senior officer with the Punjabi police who is running a fledgling demobilization program for Islamist extremists. “It’s an open question.”
A shift could be risky for Mr. Saeed: Some of his fighters have already split from Lashkar in favor of other groups that attack the Pakistani state. And much will depend on the advice of his military sponsors.
For their part, Pakistan’s generals insist they have abandoned their dalliance with jihadi proxy groups. In a striking speech in August, the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said the country’s greatest threat came from domestic extremism. “We as a nation must stand united against this threat,” he said. “No state can afford a parallel system of governance and militias.”
Unfortunately, that last statement by General Kayani although truthful guarantees nothing. No one is confident that Pakistan’s military – and especially the ISI, their answer to the CIA – is at all interested in building anything more than bank vaults filled with looted gold. The blood of their fellow Pakistanis means nothing.
Human rights campaigners have accused the British government of possible war crimes for failing to secure the release of a man held without trial for eight years by the Americans.
Yunus Rahmatullah, 30, was captured by UK special forces following the invasion of Iraq and handed over to the Americans, who eventually transferred him to Bagram air base. Despite US assertions that he is no longer considered a “security threat” he remains incarcerated in Afghanistan.
The legal charity Reprieve failed to persuade the Supreme Court to come to Mr Rahmatullah’s aid as it rejected the Pakistani’s case by a majority of 5-2 that the British had not done enough to persuade the Americans to hand him over.
But the UK’s highest court also rejected an appeal by the Foreign Secretary that the Court of Appeal had been wrong to issue a writ of habeas corpus – an ancient tenet of English law giving the legal right to be charged or released from arbitrary detention.
Reprieve welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss the Government’s appeal to overturn the writ of habeas corpus, adding that there should be a police investigation into whether “grave war crimes may have been committed”…
Jamie Beagent…representing Mr Rahmatullah, said: “We will be drawing the Supreme Court’s findings to the attention of the Metropolitan Police who are currently investigating our client’s case in relation to offences under the Geneva Conventions Act 1957.
I think it as unlikely for the British government to start obeying the Geneva Convention – as the United States. The Bush-Blair Axis decided they needn’t pay any attention at all to international law or human rights. The politicians who followed them into office have neither the courage nor integrity to reverse that decision.
An Afghan policeman stands guard as he carries his weapon decorated with colourful stickers during a joint U.S.-Afghan military clearing operations in Nagahan district in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan
Some officer would rip you a new one if an American showed up with his piece bearing stickers.
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, who served five combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, faces possible courts martial on charges that include forced sex, wrongful sexual conduct, violating an order, possessing pornography and alcohol while deployed, and misusing a government travel charge card and filing fraudulent claims…
Defense officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to provide details on the case.
Sinclair, who served as deputy commander in charge of logistics and support for the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan, was sent home in May because of the allegations, the officials said…
The charges were announced at a brief news conference Wednesday at Fort Bragg, the sprawling U.S. Army base in North Carolina that is home to the 82nd Airborne.
After reading a prepared statement, base spokesman Col. Kevin Arata refused to take questions. Reporters were told all questions would have to be made in writing and that no response was likely to come until the following day.
The next step will be an Article 32 investigation, including a preliminary hearing to determine if the matter should go to trial. No date has been set for the hearing, which Arata said would be open to the public…
Sinclair…who has been in the Army for 27 years, was serving his third deployment to Afghanistan. He had also served two tours in Iraq, as well as a tour in the first Gulf war.
It’s rare for an Army general to face court martial. There have been only two cases in recent years.
Was this behavior something new – has he been taking advantage of rank to protect himself for years?
The biggest problem with courts martial of officers ranking this high is that they can demand a jury exclusively of their peers by rank. So, the pool is small and dispersed around the globe. And I would wonder about their willingness to bash fellow brass.
Lawrence, Ohio — Authorities say a woman accused of stealing her son’s state and federal income tax refunds while he was serving his country in Iraq and Afghanistan was arrested on felony warrants…following a traffic stop in Brewster.
Jennifer L. Fletcher, 42, was booked into the Stark County Jail on charges of identity fraud, forgery and two counts of theft, said Lawrence Township Police Chief Mark Brink.
Fletcher reportedly was stopped by Brewster police after officers did a license-plate check and discovered the vehicle she was driving had been reported stolen out of Akron. After the stop, Fletcher was transferred to the custody of Lawrence Township police and interviewed by Sgt. Paul Stanley.
“She admitted to taking the money,” Brink said. “It was a good stop by Brewster, and a good job by our guys getting a confession out of her.”
According to court records, Fletcher withdrew roughly $7,500 from Scott Davis’ bank account between the fall of 2010 and the spring of 2011. The theft occurred after Fletcher reportedly agreed to file her son’s taxes while he was stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq as a member of the U.S. Army.
Court records show Fletcher used her son’s personal information to obtain checks in his name, then cashed them after forging his signature. Fletcher also is accused of depositing nearly $1,400 of Davis’ state and federal income tax refunds into her account to pay bills.
Wow! A contemptible series of crimes on just about any level you might consider.